Suzanna Derewiez, Maggie Monologues. Toronto, Words(On)Pages, 2016
Not long ago I reviewed a chapbook (Carrie Olivia Adams’ Grabble) that was originally the spoken text accompanying a dance performance. Suzanna Derewiez’s poetry sequence was originally a theatre piece, performed at the London (Ontario) Fringe in 2014. While it was easy to imagine how Adams’ work was meant to accompany the movement of dancers, it’s harder to see Maggie Monologues on the stage. The words don’t seem particularly performable or dramatic, don’t feel much to me like spoken words. Also, there’s the matter of the illustrations.
Many illustrations (drawn by Bogumila Derewicz) accompany–or rather are integrated–into the poems. Perhaps the best example is the begining of the first monologue, where the words “a suitcase” and “a taxi” (or something like them are represented by images:
As you can see, the pleasing drawings have a retro, 1940s-ish feel. They’re soft and rounded and I might even say cute; I’m not exactly sure what they add to the poems, but they make the chapbook itself a nice object.
There are fifteen poems, or monologues, and they can’t be described as cute. They are confessional, unhappy, suffocating. They are the voice of a person who feels that she is flaking away, bleeding, and (in the last poem) shrinking. It is a voice that imagines itself on a track with no warning of an oncoming train, as a young girl being teased by others, as a dreamer screaming. They are sometimes dated, as in a memory from “’52 or ’53” of new skates:
i guess i forgot how to love someone,
but i can’t seem to forget balancing on
thin ice holding her hand.
This is a poignant moment, even if I’m unsure who the “her” refers to. There’s a lot that is confusing about these poems to me–the language is ordinary enough, and the ideas aren’t dense–but I found myself losing the thread over and over. Even so, the feeling of the poems didn’t leave me. I felt keenly the speaker’s wanting “my world to be just like this”–words followed by a pretty image of a snowglobe.